The day started off as a regular day. I got up, showered, dressed, fed the dog and small child, got her ready for school, made her lunch, and took her to her first day of preschool. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Then I went to a popular box store to get a few things before I went to the grocery store. Which I never made it to. Because something irregular happened there.
As I was shopping, reading the labels intensely in the cracker aisle, a man approached me from the back of the store and asked if I could help him. He showed me a receipt and a store gift card and asked me if I would be willing to use this legit card to make my purchases but give him $100 because he had to go to court in an hour and needed money to pay his court costs.
I looked at the receipt that he had used earlier that morning to return an item worth $110 and saw that the card had over $116 on it. He said that I could keep the extra $6 and change as a good will gesture. I asked him if he had asked anyone else to assist him. He admitted that, yes, he had asked another lady but she said no.
Hmmm, I thought. Interesting. I wonder why she didn’t just help him.
My heart wanted to help him. I almost said yes. I’ve been in tough spots like his (not exactly his, but similar) and knew the desperation of not having enough and trying to find a way to make it all work out legally. I knew the life of not enough and struggle.
And then I heard my mouth say, “I want to help you but I need to think about it. Can you give me until the next aisle to give you and answer?”
My brain exploded with “What? Just help him? What if he is honest and really needs help? What would God want you do to here?” He said he had lots of time and he would see me over there at the next aisle.
Just as he walked away, I turned the other way to see a lady with her cart near mine and a man standing near her. The man said “I am a police officer. Don’t do it. It’s a scam.” The lady seconded his statement. I jokingly asked him to pretend to be my husband and help me refuse the first guy because I was a little uncomfortable. He said, “Sure” and walked down the aisle to presumably find the guy.
I thanked the lady for sharing her hubby with me and she said, “He’s not my husband, I don’t know him. We just overheard the whole thing and didn’t want you to get scammed.”
Big fat, hairy goosebumps jumped up all over me. The “police” man came back with a manager in tow, telling him everything that had transpired. And then, right behind me, the first guy came back! I just turned and told him that I couldn’t help him, I wasn’t comfortable with it. The manager got a good look at him. The guy left. I told the manager my story and the other two corroborated it. Everyone left. End of story? No, God always finishes what He starts in His ultimate protection.
Not even thirty seconds later, an acquaintance from church walked by and I greeted him. I was still a bit stunned and joked that he should have been there a few minutes earlier. I shared the story with him and he asked if I wanted him to walk with me, but I declined. His presence was comforting, knowing that I knew someone there in that moment. I was just amazed at the timing of it all.
Just then, the manager came back with a lady from security and my friend left. As we fleshed out the story with further details. I start to shake with a bit of fear, which is not like me. I normally get mad and am ready to fight. Not today. I felt vulnerable. Exposed. Scared to move. But, nothing bad had really happened to me. I was so confused.
After the manager and I explained the events again, the security person revealed that it most likely was a scam and that if I had helped the man, it would have erased the trace of money flow. That freaked me out even more. I forgot why I was even in the store at that point. They continued on to look for him again.
I had to muster the strength to get to the milk aisle and remember that I still had my shopping list in my hand. I was so distracted and absent-minded that my shopping list looked like it was written in a foreign language. I knew I needed to leave the store.
As I was a few aisles away from the checkout counters, the manager came back and approached me again to let me know that the guy had left the store. I felt a bit of relief. Not much, but enough to keep walking. He escorted me to the checkout lanes. We chatted some more and I thanked him for being there. I then remembered another tidbit of information, shared it and went to leave.
As I walked to one lane, a clerk waved at me to join her at another lane to check out. I was a tad bummed because the lady at this checkout was one of my favorites and I hadn’t seen her in a while. But, I went anyway.
As we were chatting about my shopping experience, she asked if I was ok. I told her that I was working on it. After a few more questions, I revealed my earlier experience and she said, “He was in here yesterday doing the same thing!” I started shaking more.
Our conversation brought out even more details about his appearance that was worth noting to the manager so I urged her to call him and share it. She said she would and went to get the head security person to walk me to my car. I don’t think I have ever been so afraid to walk to my car before, but the staff were more than willing to assist me to ensure I felt, and was, safe.
What is the point of me retelling this whole escapade? Do you see it? God’s protection and provision! I questioned myself for not helping the man outright and two people came to aid me before I knew I needed it. The manager got a first-hand account and sight of him and I was never left alone in the store or premises. Even the checkout lady had a piece of this puzzle to add to its’ conclusion. God covered me from start to finish in His complete provision. I was never alone.
God covered me from start to finish in His complete provision. I was never alone.
It is so easy to feel alone, especially when bad things (or potentially bad things) happen to us. But, we aren’t. God is always with us. He may not prevent something from happening but He never leaves us. I have been praising God since that time.
1 Corinthians 10:13 states “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
And 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”
I will say, I am not ready to go to the grocery store just yet, but I will do that later in the afternoon when I’m not alone. And when I do, I will be holding a piece of paper in my hand from Isaiah 41:10 that says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Friends, God is always with us. His Word says so!